The recent newsletter from Ericsson Labs had a piece on their developer competitions, which I find worthwhile looking into for inspiration on how to engage external developers and contributors.
The main event is the Ericsson Application Award, which is an annual competition for application developers on the Android platform.
Ericsson Labs also runs other competitions based on the Application Award setup and the processes they have developed. They recently announced the winners for the Apps for Africa and Vasaloppet App Challenge competitions.
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Overall, I like their initiative for having a simple and intuitive approach. I also like how they try to use social media (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) to recruit and engage participants and others interested in the initiative.
On the negative side, it seems as if they are struggling to find proper ways to develop interactive communities. They have forums on the main website, but there is no activity. They also ask participants to submit videos for the main challenge, but I can’t find them on YouTube or elsewhere. Maybe they will be made available later since they have such videos for previous competitions. Yes, they also have the Facebook page, but I think could do better a community they control by themselves. Ericsson might find some inspiration at SAP or Psion for this.
I acknowledge that it is difficult to get critical mass for communities and even if this is accomplished, you still have to work hard to have relevant discussions going and facilitate the needs of the users. You can get some advice on this in these two blog posts: 5 Key Elements for Making Communities Work and How to Use Yammer to Drive Innovation.
Nevertheless, I think Ericsson has a good starting platform for such communities so it might just be a question of time for them to crack this nut.
I look forward to following Ericsson Labs and their Application Award initiative. Let me know if you have further insights on this or if you know of similar programs in other companies.